Food for Thought: Onions

I’ve decided to start a “Food for Thought” series. I often times have thoughts while gardening that aren’t necessarily informative, no intended growing instructions or pest control tips; just thoughts. I had previously decided that they were not post worthy but today I stood in my plot chastising myself about something and thought…maybe I should share this.

The self-lecturing was based on my perception of proper onion gardening. I have always felt that the definition of onion success was the largest bulb possible upon harvesting. Then I stood today and looked at my not yet exhausted Red Marble onions (tops still very green and fully erect, an indication that they are still actively growing) and thought that they looked about the size I would seek out at the grocery store. My husband and I are happily a family of only two and this means we struggle to get through a massive, grapefruit sized onion before it goes bad in the fridge. I prefer my onions roughly the size of a baseball….

…so why on earth would I let them grow to grapefruit size if that’s not practical!? Pride. That’s the answer. I want to grow the biggest onions possible for no reason other than to prove that I can. RIDICULOUS.

So I picked them. They’re the perfect size for us and I am going to do better in the future to avoid growing things in a way that I think I’m supposed to rather than the way that meets our needs. Our household needs small onions, so we will harvest small onions. It’s that simple.

Now, for anyone who may be interested in growing onions here is a basic outline of how I grew mine —

1 – Loose, well drained soil amended with bone meal, blood meal and compost.
2 – Onion plants (ordered from Johnny’s Seed Co.) sown one inch deep, 4-6 inches apart in rows 6-8 inches apart.
3 – Water regularly and keep free of weeds.
4 – Harvest when they are your ideal size.
5 – Allow onions to “cure” in the sun for the day before storing. The sun-dried outer layers protect the vulnerable flesh underneath and lengthen storage potential.

I’d also like to make a confession — until last year, I grew onions from sets. Last year was my first time growing onions from plants and I will never go back to sets. For the second year in a row I have found that onion plants have a higher germination rate, better growth rates and overall viability and they produce more consistent, well-developed bulbs. That being said, I attempted to grow my own plants from seed for the first time this spring. I failed. Miserably. My mission for 2021 is to successfully grow onions from seed. Stay tuned. Cheers, friends!

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